In the run up to the American presidential elections we will be asking a panel of BBC News Online users to share their views. Here, we asked them for their thoughts on the Democratic Convention, and John Kerry's speech.
MEET THE PANEL
Name: Neil Sherman
Lives: Germantown, Tennessee
Works: Retired naval officer, Presbyterian minister
Current voting intention: Undecided
In 10 words or less:
"Husband, father of six, grandfather of 17, soccer fan"
I was impressed by Kerry's speech, particularly his views on foreign policy.
The most important point he made was his vow only to go to war when we have to, not because we want to.
His desire to restore relationships with our allies, his vow to continue the fight against terrorism, and his emphasis on a strong, well-equipped and technologically advanced military were right on the mark.
I think the speech was very positive, almost Reaganesque, and it will resonate with voters, including myself.
"Americans can do better and we must be a beacon for the world", was a great statement.
Kerry's experience in the military, state government, and Congress does give him credibility in leadership.
I could vote for John Kerry.
I agree with him that we had a plan to win the war but not a plan to win the peace.
I am also in agreement with him on the need to combat terrorism, protect our constitutional rights; the need to be more open with our citizens, [provide] better healthcare for all people, cut taxes on middle class workers, and especially to free ourselves from reliance on Saudi Arabian oil.
The Democrats will get a boost in the polls from his speech.
If the vote were held today, I would likely vote for him.
But I will watch the Republican convention and make my final decision before the election.
I'm a conservative Mom, and I was surprised and wowed by Kerry's speech. His attitude and his core values seem more genuine than Bush, and I think his integrity will sway me. I am not happy about the deficit, which was a waste of money that needed to be spent beefing up US intelligence; and the lack of attention/funding given to "homeland security" against more terrorists attacks. Yes, Saddam needed ousting - but it's evident it wasn't a unilateral priority for the USA given 9/11. Even though I'm a Republican, I will vote for Kerry in November, and hopefully my vote will be counted!
Brenda Gale, Dallas, Texas, USA
John Kerry did not say that Americans would go to war only as a last resort. What he did say was they will "go to war because they have to, not because they want to". There is a difference.
Andy, Oxford, UK
I am astounded that people believe in Kerry's attitude of war as a last resort. What if Europe would have stopped Hitler before he completely rebuilt his military machine instead of waiting? He wrote the book in the thirties--everyone knew what he was up to. Waiting just meant that millions more would be killed and maimed to take on the enemy at full strength rather than when they were weak.
Orin Black, Newark, DE
I agree with Neil that war should be a last resort. In response to Orin Black's contrasting the Iraq situation with Hitler, the world knew that Hitler was starting to rebuild. But it was the Bush administration that made the world believe that Saddam was doing the same. Kudos to Neil and others like him who have an open mind and vote with their conscience.
Steven Kofsky, Brooklyn, NY, USA
Swing voters in swing states like Neil Sherman will indeed determine this election, as the race is close both in the popular vote and electoral vote count. I agree with Neil regarding the most significant statements of Kerry's speech: Winning the peace, not going to war unless we have to. The parallels with Hitler made by Orin Black do not apply. Hitler was a clear threat; Saddam Hussein was not even an emerging threat. The difference between Kerry and Bush is that the weapons inspectors would have been given time to find that out; instead Bush rushed to war, against the will of those who had voted for UN resolutions forcing the weapons inspection issue. There are better ways to fight terrorism, especially with hundreds of billions of dollars being spent.
John Wendt, Kampala, Uganda
I am given hope by reading Mr Sherman's comments on the Kerry Speech. I, like Mr Sherman, was especially impressed with Kerry's stance about going to war by necessity, not choice. I believe the criticisms of this idea to be completely misguided; it does not mean procrastination or pacifism. Rather, what I think it means is that when the decision to go to war is made it is made for good solid reasons. In retrospect the Iraq war does not seem to have been waged for any legitimate reasons that justify its cost. Saying that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the US (or the world) does not make it so, as was clear in retrospect. The comparison to Hitler is deceptive and dangerous.
Samer Kurdi, Amman, Jordan
Everyone seems to be impressed with the Kerry line about going to war only when we have to, not when we want to. Well that means we will never have to fight another war because you never really have to fight. We didn't have to fight against the Germans in WWI or the Japanese in WWII. So what if they bombed Pearl Harbor, nothing says we have to fight them for it. We didn't have to fight in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Somalia, the Balkans, Cuba, the Civil War wasn't necessary, the north could have let the south secede. You can always choose whether to fight or not. Kerry and the Democrats will never choose to and that will make the world a very dangerous place. All it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.
Michael, Texas, USA
Neil Sherman's comments strike me as the most significant comments from a member of this panel so far. Why? Because Neil represents a segment of socially conservative, leaning to the Republicans, swing voters. Like me, Neil was planning to vote for George Bush. Nothing had changed his mind - not Edward's joining the ticket for example - until he heard Kerry's acceptance speech. Now, like me and I suspect, many other conservative but undecided voters, he is taking a serious look at Kerry. He says, "I could vote for Kerry". For the first time in this campaign, I feel the same. And it's people like Neil and I who will decide this election.
David Holt, Portland, Oregon, USA
I am not a U.S. citizen or resident. However who becomes U.S. President is of worldwide interest. The vow to go to war only if necessary is too simplistic. At the onset of WW-II, the same argument was made among isolationists and those who saw in Hitler a worldwide menace. We need a strong USA willing to defend freedom, while we in Venezuela face the risk of falling under a neo-communist Castro inspired dictatorship now!
Pedro Seidemann, Caracas, Venezuela